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Required Reading

5:24 PM, Jul 7, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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1) From the New York Times, "So Where's Murphy" by William Kristol.

As I mentioned earlier in the day, Kristol feels that political consultant extraordinaire Mike Murphy will soon return to John McCain's side and make sense out of the tone-deaf and contradictory hash that the McCain campaign has been cooking up:

"Murphy's arrival would mean a fair amount of turmoil. The current McCain campaign is chock full of G.O.P. establishment types, many of whom aren't great fans of the irreverent Murphy. Murphy's also made no secret of his low opinion of the Bush-Rove political machine that has produced many of these operatives. And Murphy hasn't made his possible entry into the campaign smoother by telling a New York Times reporter the other day that ‘the depressingly self-absorbed McCain campaign machine needs to get out of the way' of its candidate."

My fear with the McCain campaign is that it has the philosophy, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it is broke, do nothing because maybe it will fix itself." Sometimes such a strategy can work. See "Republican Primaries 2008" for a case study. But it won't be enough going up against a strong opponent in a Democratic year.

Or, to paraphrase Princess Leia, "Help us Mike Murphy - you're our only hope." Other than Obama self-destructing which of course remains a possibility.

2) From the Wall Street Journal, "Obama Faces Resistance From Top Supporters of Clinton" by John R. Emshwiller and Christopher Cooper

As the old saying goes, hell hath no fury like an irrational nag scorned, let alone a bunch of irrational nags. The Journal reports that "Clinton holdouts are typically most angry about what they say was the media's sexist treatment of Sen. Clinton during the campaign. And though few, if any, blame Sen. Obama directly, they fault the Illinois senator and other party leaders for what they say was failing to do enough to stop it."

Sitting atop the list of silly grievances? "Pundits both on TV and in print referred to Sen. Clinton's laugh as a ‘cackle.'" First of all, objectively speaking, it was a cackle. It is not sexist to call it what it was.

Second of all, I was doing a radio show on the Sunday night after Hillary had debuted her cackle (and that is what it was) with Chris Wallace earlier that day on Fox News Sunday. I spent pretty much the entire show making fun of the cackle. Personally, I would rather have spent the time discussing secular humanism or some other more edifying topic, but the listening public kept demanding, "More cackle!"

My point is this - I'm unclear exactly what Barack Obama could have done to stop this particular show's sorry direction. Okay, maybe he could have tried to pass the Fairness Doctrine while in the senate instead of writing a dreary campaign book. But it doesn't seem like the Clinton backers have a reasonable beef here.

3) From the New York Times Magazine, "Late-Period Limbaugh" by Zev Chafets.

Some people on the left found this lengthy story very annoying. Others on the right found it maddening. I found it enormously entertaining and insightful. Limbaugh comes across as a quadruple threat, just like he does on his show - funny, intelligent, well-spoken and funny again because he's just that good.

I especially enjoyed the little nugget on the talk radio business model:

Some (sponsors) simply run their usual ads. Others use Limbaugh as their pitchman, which costs them a premium and a long-term commitment. And lately he has created a new option. At a much higher rate he will weave a product into his monologue (To a caller who said he took two showers after voting for Clinton in Operation Chaos, Limbaugh responded: "If you had followed my advice and gotten a Rinnai tankless water heater, you wouldn't have needed to take two showers. And I'll tell you why. . . .")

This is the one part of talk radio that would-be liberal talk show hosts have never been able to get through their dogmatic little minds. Talk radio is a business, and the endgame comes when the sponsors give you their money. Putting on a good show, assembling a network and getting an audience are necessary first steps, but that's all they are. (Of course most liberal talkers can't accomplish even those things, but that's another story.)